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8 characteristics of living things biology
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (they have died) or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate. Various forms of life exist, such as plants,Biology fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. Biology is the science that studies life.
Fortunately biologists have developed a list of eight characteristics shared by all living organisms. Characteristics are traits or qualities. Here is the list of characteristics shared by living things:
Response to stimuli
Growth and development
Adaptation through evolution
8 characteristics of living things definition
So far, everything biologists have found to be alive uses cell structure to organize molecules into useful tissues and organs. All life forms use cells, whether they are single-celled organisms or multicellular organisms such as plant cells or animals.
The general structures move along a line from cell to tissue to organ to being, which gives us the word “organism,” a living thing with organ systems. Cellular organization is seen in something as simple as a fungus cell. From simple bacteria up to mammals, life uses cellular organization.
All living organisms must have the ability to reproduce. Living things make more organisms like themselves. Whether the organism is a rabbit, or a tree, or a bacterium, life will create more life. If a species cannot create the next generation, the species will go extinct. Reproduction is the process of making the next generation and may be a sexual or an asexual process. Sexual reproduction involves two parents and the fusion of gametes, haploid sex cells from each parent. Sexual reproduction produces offspring that are genetically unique and increases genetic variation within a species. Asexual reproduction involves only one parent. It occurs without a fusion of gametes and produces offspring that are all genetically identical to the parent.
(pronounced: meh-TAB-uh-liz-um) is the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy. Our bodies need this energy to do everything from moving to thinking to growing.
Specific proteins in the body control the chemical reactions of metabolism. Thousands of metabolic reactions happen at the same time — all regulated by the body — to keep our cells healthy and working.
How Does Metabolism Work?
After we eat food, the digestive system uses enzymes to:
break proteins down into amino acids
turn fats into fatty acids
turn carbohydrates into simple sugars (for example, glucose)
The body can use sugar, amino acids, and fatty acids as energy sources when needed. These compounds are absorbed into the blood, which carries them to the cells.
After they enter the cells, other enzymes act to speed up or regulate the chemical reactions involved with “metabolizing” these compounds. During these processes, the energy from these compounds can be released for use by the body or stored in body tissues, especially the liver, muscles, and body fat.
Metabolism is a balancing act involving two kinds of activities that go on at the same time:
building up body tissues and energy stores (called anabolism)
breaking down body tissues and energy stores to get more fuel for body functions (called catabolism)
In order to function properly, cells need to have appropriate conditions such as proper temperature, pH, and appropriate concentration of diverse chemicals. These conditions may, however, change from one moment to the next. Organisms are able to maintain internal conditions within a narrow range almost constantly, despite environmental changes, through homeostasis (literally, “steady state”)—the ability of an organism to maintain constant internal conditions. For example, an organism needs to regulate body temperature through a process known as thermoregulation. Organisms that live in cold climates, such as the polar bear , have body structures that help them withstand low temperatures and conserve body heat. Structures that aid in this type of insulation include fur, feathers, blubber, and fat. In hot climates, organisms have methods (such as perspiration in humans or panting in dogs) that help them to shed excess body heat.
Life transfers characteristics to offspring via deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA); these are the building blocks of life. From viruses to humans, traits that benefit the parents are transferred in genes to the offspring. For humans, this genetic material holds our genetic information such as eye color, skin color, and hair type, just to name a few.
Characteristics of life – Heredity
Unfortunately, mistakes, mutations, and traits that harm can also be transferred through our genetic material. Whether for good or bad, life exists through heredity.
response to stimuli
A Stimulus is any change either internal or external which leads to a response. This could be a noise, smell or the changes in blood sugar level.
A Receptor is a specialized cell which can sense the stimulus. There are lots of different types of receptors, some can sense light, while others can sense heat etc.
A Coordinator is a cell or organ which ‘decides’ what to do. It gives a message to the effector to do something.
The Effector is an organ which responds to the stimulus. This could be a muscle which contracts or an organ like the liver which may perform a complex task like lowering the blood sugar levels after a meal.
The Response is what happens when the organism reacts to the stimulus.
The stimulus could be either external or internal. An example of an external stimulus would be the response of the iris to bright light. Bright light can damage the retina. In this case the light is the stimulus. The receptors are the light sensitive cells of the retina. The brain is the coordinator which decides that the light is too bright and stimulates the effector,
in this case the circular muscles of the iris. The response is that the iris contracts making the pupil narrower and so reducing the amount of light which enters the eye. An internal stimulus could be the body’s temperature control. The stimulus in this case is the temeprature of the blood. The hypothalamus of the brain is the receptor and the brain is the coordinator. There are a number of effectors in this case. The sweat glands,
erector muscles and the blood vessels of the skin are just a few.
Growth and development
Living things tend to grow in size. However, there are some non-living things capable of growing in its size.
So, what is the difference in both?
The Growth of non-living things is primarily driven by the accumulation of matter from external factors or outside.
However, growth in living things is because of different internal processes occurring inside the body of the living organisms mainly because of the formation of new cells. The increase in number and mass of individuals are two unique characteristics of growth.
Multicellular organisms exhibit growth by cell division. Growth varies in plants and animals. While animals exhibit definite growth and animals cease to grow after a certain age, plant exhibit indeterminate growth and the cells continue to divide during the entire lifespan.
If we consider unicellular organisms, they tend to grow in size by cell division. Moreover, this can be easily detected by counting the cells during in vitro cultures under a microscope. However, growth and reproduction are separate processes as we gradually move to higher multicellular organisms (plants and animals).
However, we define growth as an increase in the body mass. Thus, non-living objects can also grow. For instance, boulders or sand mounds grow by addition of the material on the surface. Therefore, in living organisms growth is from within whereas in non-living things growth is from outside. Thus, growth cannot be the determining property for determination of living organisms.
Adaptation through evolution
As a population of organisms interacts with the environment, individuals with traits that contribute to reproduction and survival in that particular environment will leave more offspring. Over time those advantageous traits (called adaptations ) will become more common in the population. This process, change over time, is called evolution, and it is one of the processes that explain the diverse species seen in biology. Adaptations help organisms survive in their ecological niches, and adaptive traits may be structural, behavioral, or physiological; as such, adaptations frequently involve other properties of organisms such as homeostasis, reproduction, and growth and development.
8 characteristics of living things examples
Something that is alive will exhibit all of these traits, while phenomena that we do not consider to be alive can exhibit some, but not all of them. For example, a fire exhibits some of these traits – it consumes energy (wood and oxygen) and gives off by-products such as CO~2~ and heat, it grows in size as it consumes more and more fuel, and it may appear to reproduce as it spreads. But because it doesn’t exhibit all of these traits, we don’t consider fire to be alive. Defining life from the viewpoint of examining its characteristics reveals how much life on Earth has in common, and helps distinguish between living and non-living things. If there is other life out there in the cosmos and it’s like the life that we know, then we would expect it to also show these traits of living things.
8 characteristics of living things
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